This is the time of year when New Year’s Resolutions to eat healthy start to go by the wayside. Because I like to write about different ways to make life easier, I thought this would be the perfect time for this post. Healthy eating is difficult at first, but trust me, it gets easier. Once you get into good habits and overcome your junk food cravings, you’ll eat healthy without even thinking about it. For now, embrace the fact that it’s difficult. There’s a quote in A League of Their Own that I think sums it up perfectly: “it’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard everybody would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”
I’m not going to post about specific diet plans, or give advice on what you should or should not eat. If you’d like that information, there is certainly no shortage of books or magazine articles on the topic. I can barely get through a day without being bombarded with messages about the latest “super food” or the so-called long lost diet secret. Instead, I’m just going to help you make your healthy eating plan, whichever one it is that works best for you, as easy as possible to maintain. Also, I’d like to commend everyone who has made a resolution to start eating healthy. If you’ve slipped up a few times, it’s okay, it happens to everyone. Keep with it.
One last thing: I’ll write another post soon on keeping exercise-related New Year’s Resolutions, but until then, you can find some information about making exercise easy on this post.
- Plan all of your meals and snacks. The trick is to find a meal planning strategy that works best for you. One way is to rotate meals. If you know how to cook ten meals, cook those ten meals in a cycle until you’re ready to try something new. Or, you can designate a meal type to the day: Mondays are healthy casseroles, Tuesdays are a slow cooker meal, and so on. Finally, you can create a monthly plan. For instance, the first Monday of the month is salmon; the second Monday of the month is zucchini lasagna. You can find a meal planning printable template at the end of this post that you can customize for the meals and snacks that you’d like to use. Here are some other great meal planning tools:
- The Ziplist app and website: You can upload your own recipes or look through the ones that are posted, create a recipe box (which automatically creates a grocery list for you), and plan your meals.
- Get crafty with your meal planning! You can look up a lot of crafty ways to plan and display your meals. My favorite tips and plan are at iHeartOrganizing: Hungry for Some Meal Planning
- Make healthy eating a lifestyle and hobby. Go on health websites and blogs (add your name to their e-mail list servs), listen to podcasts, subscribe to magazines, follow sites on Facebook and Twitter, use text services, watch health movies and TV shows, download apps, and make a health site your computer home page. I highly recommend the following health websites and blogs: Fit-Bottomed Girls (http://fitbottomedgirls.com) and This Mama Cooks (www.thismamacooks.com).
- Learn how to make healthy recipes that you love. A healthy lifestyle is not about eliminating habits, it’s about replacing habits. The websites I have listed above have a lot of great, healthy recipes. Once you find a number of healthy meals that you enjoy, you will no longer feel deprived. This will also make meal planning much easier.
- Inevitably, at some point, you’re going to start craving junk food. Whatever your weakness, eventually it will find you. Have a game plan for what to do when this happens. Here are a few things that work for me: do a quick intense cardio workout (who can eat junk food after a workout?), eat a meal that is both filling and healthy (you usually only crave junk food when you’re hungry), or eat some very spicy food (this always curbs my appetite).
- Keep healthy snacks on hand all the time. Usually, healthy eating is sabotaged when you get hungry and reach for the quickest food you can find. This is when you pick up a candy bar from a vending machine or stop and grab some fast food. Keep healthy snacks on hand in your car and in your office. Some of my staples are almonds, healthy trail mix, kale chips, or pomegranate seeds.
- Keep a list of quick healthy food to make. Most healthy food is not food that you can just grab from your pantry, so you’ll need to keep items on hand at your house for quick, healthy snacks. Some ideas include a veggie omelet, tuna salad, or yogurt.
- Create a non-food reward system for yourself. For instance, once you’ve eaten healthy every day for 2 weeks, you can treat yourself to some new clothes or a manicure. Or, you can set a goal for how many days in a row you will eat well, put that many marbles in a jar, and keep an empty jar next to it. At the end of every day, if you’ve eaten healthy, you can move a marble from the “days I will eat healthy” jar to the “days I have eaten healthy” jar. I don’t recommend basing rewards on pounds lost or clothing size because it’s too easy to get frustrated. The days that you eat healthy are completely in your control, and it will make you proud of yourself when you meet this goal.
- Leave health reminders and messages around your house. You can find a picture in a magazine that you would love to buy when you’re at your desired size and post it on your dresser. Or you can post a motivational quote on your refrigerator.
- Get support. Let your friends and family know about your lifestyle change, and ask them to support your healthy choices. Try to find another person who is trying to start eating healthy. You can not only use her for support, but you can also share ideas and success stories.
- Look into joining a food coop in which you can buy healthy, organic food at wholesale prices (see www.coopdirectory.org to find one in your area). I absolutely love my food coop. Not only do I save a lot of money, but I have gotten to know other health-oriented people who inspire me to eat nutritious food. There are women who are forty years older than me that look fabulous, and I hound them about how their secrets (which are all related to nutrition). We also frequently swap recipes and sometimes even go hiking together. My food coop has truly become a large and important part of my life over the past couple of years.
I hope this has been helpful for you in sticking with your plan to eat healthy. Please leave me a comment to let me know how you stay on track. Good luck with your change (or maintenance) in this great lifestyle choice!
Meal Planning Printables:
Meal Planning Printable, in Word for customizng: Meal Plan – Word
Meal Planning Printable, in pdf: Meal Plan – pdf